Dedicated to Nigeria's socio-political issues
October 3, 2007 - December 2, 2007
'The Nigerian Federal Election of 1959' by K W J Post. The Last Great Act of Treason?
'The last great act of the British Raj.' So wrote Ken Post, a young British academic-to-be (if his researches were acceptable) of Nigeria's Independence Elections of 1959. As the elections were rigged, Ken got it wrong, but British colonial historians often quote his verdict with approval, for he supported their prejudice that the British had behaved honourably.
The bulk of Nigeria's territory lay in the Northern Region and the British backed up the Northerners' demand for 50% of the Federal parliamentary seats by stating in the 1950's that the North did indeed have over 50% of Nigeria's population. At that time I was in charge of statistics in the Department of Labour's Headquarters in Lagos and I did not believe a word of it. What were the true figures? I did not know, nor did, nor does anybody else. An American, Professor Henry L. Bretton, believed the elections to have been rigged. He wrote that "... the very construction of the Northern Region, in the form in which it entered the era of independence, represents one of the greatest acts of gerrymandering in history."
I have written to many of the academics involved, including Ken Post, about Nigeria's independence elections, which were in two stages. None reply to my letters. I wrote to tell them of how I had been ordered by the Governor General to rig the elections. It was beyond question, without a doubt, that in fact the last great act of the British Raj in Africa's largest British territory, practically an empire of nations rather than a colony, was treason. In 1956 a conference was held at Nuffield College, Oxford, to consider how Nigeria's elections could be studied. When I asked the Warden of Nuffield to see a report on this conference, I was told it was not available, for quite spurious reasons. Had a study been made of the election at Regional level in the North, which preceded the 1959 election, it would have been quite clear that the election was a total farce. It was decided that it was not possible to study that election.
A totally inexperienced young graduate student, Ken Post, is selected to make a one-man study of one of the most complex and important general elections to be held in Africa. The African giant, Nigeria, is the most populous country on the continent. Its sheer physical size and ethnic diversity is truly incredible. On election day, where would Mr Post position himself? He could as easily have stayed in London and read the Nigerian newspapers and British official reports. And as all newspapers in the major part of the territory were British-controlled - a licence was required from the British to start a newspaper - his information, his primary sources were British in origin, not Nigerian. However, Mr Post could speak to the voters and write to them? Sadly, the voters were mostly illiterate and did not speak English anyway. It seems Mr Post spoke no African languages and employed no interpreters.
Yet Mr Post produced a detailed, fact-filled, fat volume which appears quite intimidating, and reached very clear and decisive conclusions. British public relations had transformed a poor, squalid, backward colony into a beacon of democracy, a model democracy, the twelfth largest democracy in the world. And yet in six years the window dressing had slipped to reveal near total anarchy, the destruction of the parliamentary opposition, trumped-up treason trials, a totally corrupt political elite, a military coup, the assassination of three Prime Ministers, a bloody pogrom, one of the bloodiest civil wars in world history and the total destruction of that democracy, hailed by Mr Post and given his imprimatur of being fair, decent and honest.
One in five Africans is a Nigerian. The most important black African State has been described as the African Giant, the Brazil of Africa, and the Texas of Africa. In area it covers 923,768 square kilometres (356,669 square miles) and is four times the size of the United Kingdom. From Badagri to Lake Chad is about as far as New York to Chicago. Communications in Nigeria were primitive if not non-existent. If Mr Post visited a town, it would be a different world from the surrounding area, which it might be impossible to reach.
Of course, Mr Post knew that this was a British election. British officials were in control of the electoral machinery. It would indeed have been very surprising if Mr Post had returned to his supervisors, his professors at London and Oxford, and announced that it was all a great fix. Would his book have been published? Did the award of a doctorate depend on this work? Would he have been appointed by the British to the post of Lecturer in Government at Nigeria's prestigious but sole University, had he discovered and published the truth? What did the roll call of distinguished professors of presumed great integrity intend by this unlikely of all academic, but also of incredible politically explosive potential, projects?
Presumably they knew that Nigeria's terrain is extremely varied, ranging as it does from thick coastal mangrove swamps and rain forests to dry savannah regions in the extreme North. Eminent geographers claim that there are 434 ethnic groups in Nigeria speaking 395 mutually unintelligible languages. The major groups are the Hausa-Fulani, the Yoruba and the Ibo, and some ten groups account for some eighty per cent of the population. Remarkably, nearly 50% of the population may be under the age of fifteen. (Remember that all British, Nigerian, official and other figures are largely guesswork. I did my share of guessing when compiling those official reports! As the official who planned and drafted Nigeria's major Act of Parliament in the welfare area, the Nigerian Factories Act, and planned and pioneered the prestigious National Provident Fund, I needed reliable figures if anybody did!)
Mr Post had an impossible task. I do not question his integrity. In fact, he compiled a comprehensive, detailed, exhausting and voluminous work. If I question its accuracy, value or integrity, it is because it is almost totally dependent on tainted and very suspect British official sources which I had conclusive evidence were corrupt. When I was invited to a meeting with HE the Governor General, Sir James Robertson, to discuss all this at Government House in 1960, his personal assistant, the beautifully mannered and charming John Bongard told me not to mention unsavoury matters.
"You mean the election rigging?" I asked.
"No. He wants to talk about the election rigging, but don't mention buggering black boys," said Bongard.
When I asked the Governor General why he had rigged the Independence Elections, he replied quietly, "Because it was necessary."
Livy said, 'Treachery, though covered up, always comes out in the end.' 'Deeply concealed acts of treachery,' said Cicero, 'are often disguised with the pretence of duty or necessity.'
Carefully read, Mr Post occasionally indicates reservations to his general thesis, but he carefully skirts the rocks that would sink his vessel. Quite simply, the fact that the British-controlled NPC exercised totalitarian power over two-thirds of Nigerian territory made the election results a nonsense. There had been a secret agreement inflicted on the Southern leaders, binding them not to campaign in the North. What sort of election was this where the pro-British party, which was hardly recognisable as a normal political party, was guaranteed success?
'And so in 1960 Nigeria's leaders (with, be it noted, the enthusiastic mandate of an exemplarily administered general election behind them) moved into sovereignty...' I was a returning officer in Lagos where the pretence and reality almost met. However, through my network of official contacts throughout the country, I heard of British officials and their agents lining up every available voter to vote for pro-British candidates. Mr Post got it wrong. This was the greatest act of sophisticated gerrymandering and skulduggery of any election in the so-called free world (in modern history). Two distinguished historians, both friends of mine, were blackmailed into silence because they knew this truth.
If Nigerians after 1960 (although British officials were still in place over large areas) rigged elections shamelessly, they had learned from experts. Let us consider how the British ran an election in Prime Minister Balewa's constituency in 1964. In the general election that year an 'affidavit described how three abortive attempts had been made to nominate a candidate in the Prime Minister Balewa's constituency. At the first attempt, the nominators were arrested; the second time they were carried away by thugs; on the third occasion they were kidnapped and held until the lists closed.' In sixty one constituencies in the North, NPC candidates were returned unopposed. It seems the nominations of the opposition candidates somehow were overlooked. (Martin Meredith. 'The First Dance of Freedom.' Abacus. 1985. P. 179). As the British were still running the administration in Northern Nigeria, one can see why Balewa was so grateful to them.
Post's Eurocentrism and Britishness is evident throughout his study. "Nigeria still has the test of running a Federal election without the assistance of a largely expatriate administration." In fact the staff who ran the 1959 election were almost totally Nigerian. Should they not be credited with running an honest election too? Is Post suggesting that the presence of one Britisher produced an honest election? That, without that one Britisher, the staff at each polling station were probably corrupt? This maligns the whole Nigerian nation and is quite monstrous. To one like myself who had been intimately connected with British chicanery in these elections, it is absolutely infuriating to find Post's flawed reporting passed off as objective evidence of British fair play.
If the relative honesty of British and African peoples is to be put in the scales in a Nigerian context, is the integrity of the people who conquered by force of arms outside the rule of law to be valued higher than the innocent victims of this conquest? If Mr Post's innocence leads him to believe that the British were impartial in a contest between the pro-British North and the nationalist South, his study is undermined. The British handed power to the North at Independence, not because of an election result, but because it was the only condition on which power would be granted in 1959. In fact the election was totally rigged. With the evidence of interference known to me, no-one would accept that the British behaved honestly in the 1959 elections. If Nigerian-run elections post 1959 were corrupt, the Nigerians lacked the expertise to pass them off as honest. The British had that expertise and successfully pulled the wool over the young and inexperienced Mr Post's eyes in 1959.
The 1959 elections were orderly, efficient and largely peaceful on polling day. The British arrangements went smoothly. It is these attributes that Mr Post confuses with fairness and honesty. In truth he was watching the Africans exclusively. His verdict exonerates those he observed. This was one of the greatest confidence tricks perpetrated by a colonial power in Africa on a subject people. Mr Post was selected by the crooked British to see if one of the African parties was interfering with the election. Had he examined the machinations of the British in the way they set up the contest, he would have been compelled to cry fraud! By and large the verdict of the election had been delivered before polling day. Mr Post had no authority as an observer to state as he does, for example on page 345, that polling in the 311 constituencies and 25,000 polling stations went off with remarkable smoothness. This is a measure of his inability to appreciate what he was really doing. And even had there been 25,000 impartial Mr Posts to warrant such a sweeping statement, it would have proved little. People who rig elections are crooks but not necessarily stupid. They do not do business in the open, but in private, as one would expect.
As Post reminds us, the registration and poll were voluntary. Allegations that the British in the major part of the country, the North, which covered at least two thirds of Nigerian territory, marshalled every adult male who could walk through the registration and polling booths, apparently escaped Post's attention. He expresses no surprise that the politically inexperienced and apathetic peasants in remote rural areas with few if any attributes of civilisation - tarred roads, clean water, schools or medical provision - produced a percentage poll of 89.2. Knowing British chicanery, Mr Post was right not to be surprised. From reports I received from contacts throughout the country, I was not surprised either. The lower figures of 74% in the East and 71% in the West are acceptable as a reflection of the higher literacy and political awareness in the coastal regions and were certainly due to truly voluntary registration and voting. The Southern figures were comparable (if somewhat lower) with voting figures in British general elections, as Post notes. In the North, incredibly, albeit with British assistance, the percentage poll was 10.5% higher than in the British General Election of the same year! Even Mr Post acknowledges that the British in the North lent a hand to get Northerners to register. Yet he draws back from the realisation that the British would complete the job and marshal largely illiterate peasants through the same booth to vote for their pro-British masters. Why bother to tackle the enormous job of registration if the voters were not going to turn up to vote? And as Post records on page 205, it appeared that almost the entire eligible male population was registered in a majority of Northern constituencies, 'voluntarily'. Presumably if the British had 'helped', registration would have been 200%.
To recap: In addition to the illegal gerrymandering, that I witnessed, by my British colleagues which would have, if known, rendered the election results null and void, the British had given the pro-British North 50% of the seats. They had forced the Southern nationalists to keep out of the North. 'Voluntary registration' had achieved near total figures in the North and voting percentages were also incredibly high. In these British-arranged circumstances a Northern (and British) win was an absolute certainty. Any informed person betting on a Southern win against these odds would have been declared insane. And did those who registered know what they were doing so voluntarily? Post adds a footnote to page 205 to suggest whether they were really aware of what was happening was an entirely different matter. A knowing Post gives us here a cynical smile. Post does not really believe they registered of their own volition. If they had, we would have to assume that they knew what they were doing. Post thinks that preposterous, as it probably would appear to most people. And here Post gets himself into a logical bind. He cannot bring himself to admit the truth. Yes, they did not need to know what they were doing, because they were not registering of their own volition. Mr Post, by his own admission in that footnote, gives the game away. Just another British fix.
Another astonishing fact was that the Northern Emir-controlled Government party, the NPC, did not even need to fight its opponents in the West and East. They could sit back and let the Southerners fight each other. The NPC contested only one seat in the West and none at all in the East. The NPC was indeed an unusual political party. The truth is that it was not a proper political party at all, but a regime devised to perpetuate the wishes of the British, both before and after the Independence elections. No wonder Post remarks on page 240 that the outsider experienced difficulty in penetrating the inner workings of the NPC.
In 1956 the present writer was ordered by the Governor General to take all Department of Labour staff and vehicles to campaign in Warri for the chief stooge of the British in the South, Festus (Festering) Samuel Okotie Eboh, the most corrupt and probably therefore the politician most favoured by the British in the South. I refused to take part in this criminality as already stated. Now in stage two of the Independence elections we had the NPC sending a team headed by a Federal Minister to Warri to campaign for the leader of a supposed opponent! The truth of course is that Okotie Eboh was the politician charged by the British to tie the NPC and NCNC together so that a pro-British alliance would rule Nigeria after Independence. Dr Azikiwe, who had been blackmailed by the British to ally himself with an implacable enemy, dutifully visited the Northern leaders in May 1958 to cement the deal, which had been set up even earlier in 1956 at the instigation of the British.
Okotie Eboh was the most important politician for the British. This is why such extraordinary measures had to be taken to make sure he won. I knew this in 1956, which is why the Governor General warned me that I knew far too much. If I revealed what I knew, he said that means would be found to silence me. The British could always deliver election results to please their friends, even when one British official broke ranks. There was one exception and it illustrates how grotesque Post's conclusions were about the Independence elections.
On 7 November, shortly before the general election, a plebiscite was held in the Trust Territory of the Northern Cameroons, organised by the same British officials whose behaviour we have been discussing. The Northern Cameroons ran alongside the Northern Region and the NPC expected the British to deliver the goods as usual. But the British failed; the Northern Cameroons did not vote to become an integral part of Northern Nigeria. The NPC leaders were furious. It could only be that the British were delivering the goods elsewhere. Suddenly it was quite clear. The British wanted the Northern Cameroons so that they could build a military base. Wrong, said the British. It had to be pointed out to the Sardauna of Sokoto, the feudal and totally undemocratic leader of the North, that, although 'our people' had run the elections, the suspicious United Nations had insisted on sending UN officials to supervise the elections.
However, the British do not give up so easily. In the 1959 vote there had been 70,401 against 42,979 to postpone a decision to join Northern Nigeria. In 1961 those who did not want to join the North had increased from 70,401 to 97,659, but those who wanted to join the North increased from 42,979 to an astonishing 146,296, a more than threefold increase. This remarkable turnaround could not possibly be due to the presence of one very experienced Northern hand, Mr D.J.M. Muffett who was a close friend of the Sardauna? Mr Muffett had been the Chief Electoral Officer for Northern Nigeria during the 1959 federal election and his robust approach to registration had produced figures the Soviets would have admired. Now, to resolve an intractable problem, the Sardauna appointed Mr Muffett as Resident General in the Northern Cameroons and the results were as gratifying to the Sardauna as the landslide win for the North had been in the 1959 General Election. Mr Muffett had been resourceful, enterprising, inventive, daring. He attacked problems head on. What would the Sardauna have done without such brave captains?
Post makes no reference to the celebrated presence of the CIA and its role in the Independence elections. He does mention that Patrick Dolan's public relations firm was working for the Action Group Government of the West. The informed would know that Dolan was a close friend of Wild Bill Donovan, chief of the CIA. Dolan was a spy and war hero known for mission impossible tasks against the Nazis. Post did not mention this, presumably because it might have drawn attention to the fact that the whole of the SIS, MI5 and Nigerian special branch and related agencies were deployed during the Independence elections to make sure that 'our boys' won.
Francis Nwokedi, whom the British had chosen to have the key post in Nigeria after Independence, head of the Foreign Service, was my friend. It was an uneasy friendship and it existed and survived, not in spite of, but because I criticised Francis and stood up to him. He despised crawlers. He knew I was like his wife Betty, which is what she told him. I thought he could have been bigger than he was. I knew he had played along with the British, but this was a ploy - or was it? Anyway, he was also a close friend of Dr Zik, but the British did not know that. Not that it mattered after 1956 because Zik had been broken at last. He was now a burnt-out case, and could be relied on to be a ceremonial President with no power at all after the election.
As I have remarked, the Governor General said that I knew far too much, and he would know. I have indicated how I knew so much. It should be remembered that I was part of the British establishment. The Labour Department expatriate staff made no claim to be very cerebral. (The African staff were, however, quite brilliant). I made friends in other departments including one that will not surprise the astute reader of what has gone before. One informant was in charge of counter-intelligence. Another tapped all leading politicians' 'phones. As the Governor General rightly said, "I knew too much." This rigged election put into office a gang of crooks who for six years ransacked this great giant, this great empire of a nation, a commonwealth in itself. 'Nigerians' are so diverse, so exuberant, and so full of excitement and laughter... When the military rose against these crooks, a civil war started and one thousand days later up to two million young Nigerians were dead. This was treason to our democracy.
I have written this election study as a duty, a debt, that I owe to a dear friend now dead. Philip Williams, the biographer of Hugh Gaitskell, pioneered the study of elections at Oxford. One of his students once interrupted us at tea at Trinity. He was to be Dr David Butler. David was sent away because at that time Phil, who was a don at Trinity where he had sumptuous rooms, and I were being served tea and toasted crumpets from a silver tray by a uniformed butler. As Labour people, neither Phil nor I saw anything amiss in this. We believed that the workers deserved the best. After tea Phil would unroll great charts and we would explore the mystery of some general election.
"How do you do it, Phil!" I once exclaimed.
"I'll tell you a secret, Harold," Phil said very seriously. "You get the results, you get all the information you can, you take a dozen pencils and note pads and you knock yourself out for weeks analysing it all!"
In 1957 I told Phil how we had rigged the elections in the first stage Regional (State) level of the independence elections. I had resigned from the Colonial Service and taken a job as Personnel Officer at the Esso Fawley Refinery. We started a second baby; we had a house, a car, a dog and a cat as well as a well-paid job. However, I knew too much, and the British Government took my job, my car, my home, my dog and cat (I still grieve for them) and forced me to return to Nigeria. If you are surprised, I must tell you that the SIS has unlimited power. Anyone who stumbles on secret operations is liable to be silenced. You are a non-person. You have no rights. You cease to exist. That is exactly what the head of the Colonial Service told Sir Julian Amery, the Government Minister for the Colonies. He told Amery I did not exist. I had never been in Government service; I had never served in Africa.
In 1960 I fled from Lagos and reported to Phil at his home in Chorleywood on the 1959 election and how we had rigged that one. The above report is the study Philip might have made - but so much more ably - had he not been blackmailed into silence because of me. (As was another historian friend in Lagos, Michael Crowder.) Margery Perham, the doyenne of Oxford Africanists, put pressure on Phil. She was acting for her friend, Sir James Robertson, the Governor General. There is a four-letter word for Perham and it is not one to be used lightly, and it is not lady. She made an honourable man suffer as her dishonourable friends made millions of young Africans suffer even more.
Ken Post worked incredibly hard to produce this book on Nigeria's Independence election. If I cannot accept its conclusions, and I wonder if they were dictated, I can acknowledge a magnificent if flawed work, which my dear friend Phil Williams would have thoroughly enjoyed. The book is packed full of brilliant description, facts and analysis, and is truly the creation of a first-class scholar. I am told that Ken now has serious reservations and takes a less sanguine view of what he so brilliantly studied. If I appear to have been over critical in pursuit of what I know because of secret information not available to Ken, I hope he will appreciate the necessity that was dictated by the tragic consequences of this despicable treachery by the British.
Another American Professor Schwarz also believed Mr Post may have been too sanguine in his conclusion about the fairness of the elections. Certainly one of Nigeria's great nationalist leaders totally rejected Mr Post's conclusions. When Chief Awolowo found himself charged with treason by a Government fraudulently elected, the prosecution based its case on the thesis that he had turned to insurrection having lost faith in the ballot box as a result of his experiences in the North in the 1959 Independence election. Did Balewa think up that masterpiece of sophistry all by himself?
The Russians were always damned because in their kind of elections the Government or official candidates always won with thumping majorities. In some of the roughest and undeveloped terrain in Africa, Professor Post records registration and voting figures which can only be compared with the USSR. Even with Nkrumah on the rampage, Ghana only came up with voting figures between 20 and 30%. Nigerian figures of 90% in the North simply demonstrate British zeal going overboard when trying to do a chum a good turn. Remember that few British colonial civil servants had experience of elections either. If only the Britishers' enthusiasm had stretched to providing tarred roads, clean water, schools, hospitals, and other basic services for their Northern friends, but the Emirs did not want them.
As Sir Alan Burns proudly pointed out, '...no attempt was made to force upon Nigeria all of the doubtful advantages of modern civilisation.' Evidently most of the British in the Burns' mould regarded the North as some kind of private zoo or reservation. In the capital, Lagos, with relatively civilised facilities, the percentage poll was 76.2%, which is still highly creditable. The North produced a percentage poll of 89.2%.
The election studies in Nigeria were modelled on studies of British elections since 1945, made under the auspices of Nuffield College, Oxford. The aim was to preserve a careful, contemporary record of events important in history. The first stages of the Independence elections took place in 1956 at Regional (State) level. Strangely, the one election in the North which scholars would have been most keen to know about, was not able to be studied. These were the first direct elections to the Northern House of Assembly. The reason was, of course, that they were rigged. Somehow this did not seem to fit in with '...a sentiment among Europeans that if they are to go it must be with honour, honour defined by European standards (sic) of good government and democracy.' This was the clarion call by Professors Mackenzie and Robinson who, with Miss Perham, the guru of all matters colonial, headed the colonial studies scene at Nuffield and Oxford.
It was really the British colonial officials in the North who were determined that it was their Southern counterparts - the mission boy nigger lovers - who would be powerless. Did Dr Azikiwe and Awolowo really believe that the British were going to hand over the richest black colony in Africa to nationalists who loathed the British? (Ghana was small beer and of little concern.) The means to this end was the census and it was said that British officials in the early 1950's had wanted to bolster the North, and that this had influenced their counting.
The only people who would be in a position to question Ken Post's endorsement of the Independence elections as fair would be fellow academics. This is why two historians, one an election specialist, later to be eminent, had to be blackmailed into silence. Michael Crowder and Philip Williams were my friends. If I could not be blackmailed because my record was clean and I was a respectably married heterosexual, pressure could be applied through my friends who were more vulnerable. Michael was on the spot in Lagos and very promiscuous, and Sir James Robertson personally threatened him with prosecution if his friend Smith did not keep his mouth shut!
The name of the game in handing over Nigeria to the pro-British North was to make safe a vulnerable target for Soviet penetration. An oppressed colony was assumed to be an obvious target for Soviet imperialism. A newly 'independent' nation safely inside the Commonwealth with moderate and responsible, i.e. pro-British leaders, would expand the free world. Nothing need change in the economic relationship. There would be no savings as the colonies paid their own expenses. The prisoner paid for his own handcuffs even if they looked like a silken cord. A handful of doctorates and knighthoods cost nothing. Years of planning and grooming and fine tuning to be thrown away so Awo and Zik could rule? The idea was preposterous. The independence arrangement, strategy, plan, was executed perfectly. It was a well-oiled machine. It was pure theatre and at the end of the play the performers applauded the audience. The players thought the play was over - it had only just begun.
Britain gave Nigeria to Balewa on a plate because independence was not granted at the point of the terrorist's gun. Had it been so, Awo or Zik might have won the prize. If Awo and Zik had, paradoxically, delayed the transition, they could probably have dictated their own terms. Awo and Zik thought they could deal with the British stooges from the North most easily when the British left, but they were wrong. Both were easily outmanoeuvred by the simple, but ruthless, Balewa and his British advisors. For Awo and Zik, in truth, Independence had come too fast. Our Northern puppets, who had never wanted independence, had to be rushed into it. That was only Act One, although some thought Independence was the name of and the whole of the play. Act Two was the destruction of Awo and Act Three the elimination of Zik.
I do not say that all the events in Nigeria between 1950 and 1970 were planned by or dictated by the British, but some very treacherous covert action did take place. If the central aim - to keep power in pro-British hands - is appreciated, then much falls into place. Zik thought he was the ace, but he was not. Awo was the ace. Zik was the joker in the pack. Zik was easily railroaded into the presidential siding and given a set of uniforms to play with like a black Barbie doll, while Awo was beaten up. How the British High Commission rejoiced when Awo got ten years and Enahoro fifteen years in jail. Revenge was sweet!
The Coker Commission helped to prove that even if one doubted the charge of treason, Awo had undoubtedly diverted millions of public funds into his party machine. However, this had been known to British intelligence for years. Had they nipped this in the bud, they could not have used it to jail Awo at their convenience. I know this to be true because the Senior Resident in the West, a fellow Magdalensis named Smith, told me he had all this stuff in his safe in 1960, and it had been there for some time. Post was told all this too, as can be seen from his book. Polling day was on 12 October 1959. Post dates his Preface 31 August 1961. The following year the Coker Commission was set up to - surprise, surprise! - discover what had been known all the time and help put Awo out of politics. One major threat to British control of Nigeria had been removed.
Awo may have thought that diverting funds to further the pursuit of freedom from the colonial yoke was morally justified. The British were not the sort of colonial street fighters who let moral considerations deter them from going for the jugular. Awo went to jail, not because he was charged with being a criminal - that was irrelevant - but because he trusted the British to be moral. After all, they could have made provision for political party financing from public funds. They could also have acted quickly to stop the offence. Of course, that would have seemed hypocritical when the British were financing the NPC - the party which drew on the major geographical area and major part of Nigeria's population - from public funds. The British bided their time like Fabius (who gave his name to the Fabian Society), and like Fabius, when they struck, they struck hard.
Mr Post's study is replete with voting and registration figures, all of which have passed through British hands. As such they are tainted, very suspect and quite unacceptable. Sir James Robertson in 1960 not only accepted that the elections were rigged, he was anxious to convince me that they were, in order to underline the trouble I was in. He emphasised that the orders had come from him and that hundreds of senior officers had been involved in this covert operation. He stressed that I was the only one to object.
I already knew that the 1956 State (first stage) Elections had been hopelessly compromised. This was how my troubles had started when Sir James sent me personal orders to take all Labour Headquarters staff and vehicles to assist the NCNC campaign against the Action Group. This was the Minister of Labour's constituency although he himself was not standing. The order came through Francis Nwokedi who was, like Okotie Eboh, a close friend of Dr Zik. I was friendly with Nwokedi, who was to head the Foreign Service after Independence; serve with Ironsi in the Congo; be Ironsi's close colleague after the military coup; be responsible for the Nwokedi report which proposed scrapping the Federation and precipitated the Northern pogrom; and finally became a Biafran leader, gun runner and hawk.
Also in 1956 the Governor General ordered my boss Charles Bunker to pressurise British and other firms to provide large sums of money, cars and petrol to Okotie Eboh who was the National Treasurer of the NCNC. It was this vast financial power which made it possible for Okotie Eboh to become the major force in the NCNC, drive Dr Zik into a back seat and seal an alliance, as the British demanded, with the NPC.
With all this evidence and much more, the elections were clearly a total fraud and the British role had been entirely criminal. It is for this reason that there is really no point in examining Mr Post's numbers as if they were factual. This criminality also reinforced commonly expressed doubts about the integrity of the Northern census returns, which had been designed to back up a demand that the North be given 50% of the parliamentary seats.
If all British chicanery were planned to give Nigeria unity and stability, the strategy was badly misconceived and totally flawed. British gerrymandering could put the NPC in power in 1959 but could the NPC retain power and, worse still, win an honest election without the British presence? The answer was evidently in the negative. Thus was born, probably at the instigation of the British and with the connivance of the remaining, mainly Northern, British administrators and the huge British High Commission staff, the strategy to de-stabilise and destroy the parliamentary opposition so ably and democratically exercised by Chief Awolowo. This and the gross corruption of Britain's puppets inevitably led to the military intervention that ended in a bloody civil war in which up to two million innocent young people died.
I do not know the true Northern census figures. Neither do I know the true election returns for the 1956 and 1959 elections. I do know that these elections were totally rigged and that the British, not the Nigerians, engaged in wholly reprehensible, criminal behaviour. If the Nigerian politicians did engage in corrupt electoral practices post 1960, they had been taught by their masters in 1956 and 1959.
There was nothing personal in the vindictiveness shown to Awo and Zik by the British. The nationalist leaders were not rotters; they were intellectuals who were rather unsociable and aloof, and did not suck up to the British, unlike the Northern creeps. Awolowo and Enahoro were men of considerable intellect and principle, but they would tangle with the British. Not too long after they were condemned as treasonable, criminal and evil, they were reinstated and back in harness at a Federal level with the full backing of the British and their Northern dupes, for it was Zik's turn to be worked over and taught a lesson. In fact, the wily Zik, when he saw defeat looming in the civil war, ratted on his party and his people and was allowed to join the winning side. Of course, it is wrong to talk of anyone winning in a barbaric war, which cost the lives of a generation of young people. Neither the Nigerians nor the Biafrans won this bloody contest. Surely there were only losers? Not quite. It is true that the Nigerian people lost, but it was the British who won for their allies in the North ruled as always and even survived when split up into many states, because none of these states crossed the frontier between North and South. The integrity of the North survived even the fragmentation intended by the creation of many new States.
The game plan was to keep Nigeria in Britain's pocket and in the free world. Both of these aims have been achieved by British foreign policy towards Nigeria during the thirty years since the nominal Independence. The necessary arrangement between colonial power and the Nigerian 'successor elite' (W.H. Morris-Jones) even outlasted the collapse of the USSR and its allies, and the end of the cold war. The operation was a great success. Tough that two million Nigerian young people had to be killed to protect British interests in the cold war, but as the British would say, omelettes cannot be made without breaking eggs.
I should very much like to have Professor Post's answers to the following questions:-
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